Lure of the hook, line and sinker : The Tribune India

Lure of the hook, line and sinker

Lure of the hook,  line and sinker

Photo for representation. File photo

Lt Gen Raj Sujlana (retd)

THE art of angling hooked me through my association with Gen Trevor Morlin, a thorough professional who had utmost concern for every soldier under his command. Being from the Sikh Regiment, he enjoyed tying a turban whenever he could; his ‘Sat Sri Akal’ was resounding! I joined as his aide-de-camp in 1976, when he was commanding the division at Leh. He was an almanac of knowledge on varied subjects, a keen sportsman and an outdoor man with a fondness for angling, which he termed as the best of sports — full of pleasure, devoid of strife, giving the fish always a chance. He introduced me to angling thus, ‘The first bite on the hook is akin to the first love!’

Though Leh had plenty of angling sites, he announced one day, ‘Let’s go angling to Manali.’ Taken aback, I checked whether I had heard it right. ‘Manali,’ he repeated, ‘a reconnaissance of the Upshi-Manali road is due.’ I prepared for the arduous journey along rough tracks, crossings over passes at high altitude, ending with the Rohtang Jot before rolling down to Manali. That was 1976; today, this road is still only for the adventurous and strong-hearted! Unlike modern vehicles, one then had to bank on the versatile Jonga and the not-so-reliable one-tonner. Regular halts were necessary not only to survey the area but also to prevent the vehicles from getting overheated.

However, just before the Bara Lach La, the one-tonner stalled. With dusk approaching, there was an urgency to cross over, so the accompanying staff requested the General to move on and they would catch up. We crossed the pass in a lone Jonga till we spotted a forest hut. It had a small guest room with essentials; there was a cot whose jute niwar hung loosely. Having no choice, we halted. The chowkidar welcomed us, served us delicious khichri. Later, I asked the General to take rest. Rejecting the cot, he preferred to lie on the floor. I spotted a pile of doormats; once upturned and covered by a curtain, they provided a reasonable cushion. In turn, he asked me to sleep on the cot. No way would I do that. So, once he lay down, I crept out to wait for the others. Next day, we reached Manali. The reconnaissance completed, we spent fruitful hours angling for the trout before our return.

On another occasion, during a flying reconnaissance along the higher reaches of Sonamarg, as we flew past the Krishansar Lake, he ordered a landing at a temporary helipad. The lake was sparkling blue and loaded with trout, which proved to be elusive. Our steps were enough for them to dart away. We had to stand in the freezing water to get a few catches before resuming our journey.

Today, nearly five decades later, the General in heaven must be wondering what got hold of me suddenly to write all this. Quoting Shakespeare, I would just say, Sir, ‘When to the sessions of sweet silent thought, I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, for precious friends (seniors) hid in death’s dateless night!

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